Cover Image: Every Brain Needs Music

Every Brain Needs Music

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Member Reviews

When selecting this title I was hoping for another "Your Brain on Art" type of book (which I adored). This book, while being very interesting, lacked the life-changing nature that one had on me. Every Brain Needs Music simply couldn't hold my attention and I stopped reading after a few chapters.

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I thank the Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of this book! The opinions in this review are entirely my own.

This was a great book! I only gave it 4 stars because it was definitely very "technical" at times. I felt it was aimed at an audience who has a bit more than just a basic understanding of neuroscience. However, it was still very interesting and I learned a lot.

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I loved this book! I love the mixing of neuroscience with music and eat up every morsel. This took me so long to read because I was speaking it up.

It was very easy to read though and I highly recommend it.

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This book was a bit scientific for me at times, but most of it was fascinating, especially for people who play musical instruments. Larry S. Sherman and Dennis Plies explain the amazing effects that playing a musical instrument has on the brain, and how learning new skills can even help the brain develop new cells in adulthood. They also relate the effects of performance on the brain, and they include an excellent section on listening to music, in which they relate a little bit about the history of music.

I was rather disappointed, though, to learn that the 'Mozart Effect' may not exist! I felt that it helped me when I studied, but it may have been a placebo!

I received this free ebook from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

EDITION Hardcover
SBN 9780231209106
PRICE $32.00 (USD)

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Weaving their expertise in music and neuroscience, Larry Sherman and Dennis Plies share insights, encouragement, and motivation to make music a foundational part of life, both in the making and the enjoying of song, dance, and playing an instrument with EVERY BRAIN NEEDS MUSIC. I enjoyed their voices, prose, and points, but felt places where the energy dragged a little, bringing down the whole. However, the book advances the importance of art in our everyday lives and argues music is essential for a whole-bodied joy. I received a copy of this book and these opinions are re my own, unbiased thoughts.

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This book is very interesting that describes the reasons why we compose, perform and listen actively music and the related impacts on our brain.

Even if the book describes in details the related neuroscience processes, it is an "easy" read (as it can be understood also by common people) and very interesting, so I enjoied and completed it in just a couple of days!!!!

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This book is full of research about all aspects of music as well as some very interesting neuroscience. I learned quite a few things while I was reading it. It can get a little heavy with technical terms. Within the first few chapters, I was intrigued with all of the information about the brain, but as the book went on, I found that I skimmed some sections or long for the chapters to be slightly different than the other chapters were structured. This is a book that I will definitely recommend to some of my music students so that they can connect some of their learning from music and science.

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In “Every Brain Needs Music,” authors Larry S. Sherman and Dennis Plies explore the neuroscience of music from creation to performance. Through eight “movements” (chapters), the authors break down how our brain processes each step along the way. Infused with humor, apt metaphors, and rich historical context throughout, this novel is a surprisingly quick read for including such detailed, technical information. The attention to detail is clear, and the book is structured in an easy-to-follow progression that parallels the steps taken to create a work of music. The diagrams are also helpful for illustrating more complex concepts and are well placed within the text. The writing is assessable enough that it would be an engaging read at any level. Highly recommend to anyone who is looking to learn more about the topic.

I received an ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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EVERY BRAIN NEEDS MUSIC by Larry S. Sherman and Dennis Plies has a wonderfully playful and whimsical cover which reflects the authors' approach to the important topic of the value of music. Larry S. Sherman is a professor of neuroscience at Oregon Health and Science University, an amateur musician, and a frequent lecturer on the brain and music. Dennis Plies is a former music professor at Warner Pacific University and has recorded multiple albums in genres including gospel, classical, and jazz. They clearly have great affection for their topic and have written an engaging and informative text which they hope "will be of interest to anyone who loves music and is interested in gaining insights into how we create music, teach and learn music, and perform and listen to music." Students who are researching this topic will also find much of value; approximately forty per cent of the text contains appendices with information on two surveys, extensive references, and a detailed index.

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In “Every Brain Needs Music,” a musician and a neuroscientist join forces to explain the power and complexity of music in our lives. After setting the stage with why humans engage in music, the authors break the book into four “movements” to explore the dimensions of composing, practicing, performing, and listening to music. Each section weaves together research insights, informal interviews, and the authors’ own wisdom to build a thought-provoking picture of what music is and does in the world.

As an engineer who is also a musician, I found much to connect with and reflect on as I compared my own experiences with those in this book. Each chapter gave me a new appreciation for the human body and its incredible capacity to learn, process information, and coordinate precise movements. I also found that the informal survey responses from other musicians brought a delightful touch to the writing and highlighted how unique our experiences are, like a kaleidoscope. The most surprising aspect of the book was how much research is still needed in the field of music, because many of the research studies showed inconclusive or narrow results. Other studies were more decisive but generic in topic (such as about learning or enjoyment in general), leaving me informed but wishing for a more direct connection to music. Still, scientists have determinedly moved our knowledge of music forward in many new and interesting ways over the years.

The journey to understanding our connection to music may be unfinished, but the authors of “Every Brain Needs Music” have done an admirable job illuminating the path up to this point.

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A fascinating look at the brain and music. It looks at all aspects of music. Listening, composing, singing. It literally changes the way the brain works. It activates certain parts of the brain. The science behind it is so intriguing and being a music nerd myself, I loved learning about all of the different ways music improves, not only our lives, but the make up of our brain!

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Well . . . science has never been my forte . . . thus, I ended up skimming quite a bit, since this was far less a general public sort of book than I expected. In addition, instead of providing encouragement to learn to play my new Yamaha keyboard, that is still in the box, I was left feeling totally discouraged. Who has time for all that practice, practice, practice? Actually, I may have the time, but I think it’s truly doubtful I’ll have the patience to stick with the repetition of it all.

There were a few interesting facts about how music affects the brain of a listener, but not that many. As someone who has religiously listened to music since a very young age, I am aware how much doing so has affected my own life. As a child, I was probably even a “music junkie”, as described in this book. While I don’t listen to it anywhere near as much today, I truly love music and could not live without it. Unfortunately, I did not truly love reading this book. It’s not really for a general public reader, in my opinion.

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Who doesn't love music. If you love music and enjoy learning about the brain, this book is for you. As a singer I definitely found this interesting. It's easy to understand and breaks things down without dumbing them down to explain it's point. We learn that music is pleasurable and with that like other things that are pleasurable can be addictive, and that explains why music is usually Incorporated with other addiction behaviors like nightclubs for people are drinking and doing drugs. We also learned that when you're listening to music your brain waves are following the pattern, similar to the waves of the people performing the music. As a singer this is especially mind-blowing to me. I'd like to think that if I'm putting on a performance it's almost like a superpower where I can express the feelings of the song and literally put that in my listeners brain. I can understand this too because there are many times where I could practice without singing out loud just by listening to a peace repeatedly and following along and my head. I always thought this was weird, but now I feel like it's more normal and it explains how I'm able to do that.

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"Several studies have supported the notion that music practice per se leads to increased myelination and the the more you practice, the more you make myelin."

We all know how powerful the brain can be, but it was truly incredible to take a deep dive into all the different ways the brain processes and reacts to music, whether you are creating it, playing it or listening to it. I really enjoyed this book and appreciated the charts and diagrams as they helped me picture how some of those neurological processes worked.

Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher Columbia University Press, and the authors Larry S. Sherman and Dennis Plies for giving me an advanced copy of "Every Brain Needs Music" in exchange for an honest review.

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What happens in the brain when we listen to, practice, improvise, compose, and perform music? Every Brain Needs Music ably reaches to neuroscience to answer these questions.

The volume suffers from an identity crisis. On one hand, it is published by a prestigious university press and supports its factual assertions with an ample notes section. It also appears to target mass appeal with its folksy pawing at humor that usually falls flat and its incessant references to the two authors by their first names.

On that last point, there is then its pathological insistence on diversity in musical exemplars: "from Pharrel to Prokofiev"; "a song by Elis Regina or Scott Joplin"; "an Amália Rodrigues or Alison Krauss song"; "be it for a piano or a Chinese zheng"; "whether it's learning to play that Chopin piece, a Carnatic composition by Purandara Dasa, a ballad by Roy Orbison, a piece of chamber music by Cacilda Borges Barbosa, or a great hip-hop song by Jay-Z." You have to wince at a description of Beethoven's groundbreaking C minor piano sonata as "the second movement of which Billy Joel put words to in This Night on his best-selling album Innocent Man," as if

Underlying all of this is a perverse agenda I have never understood: that all music is equally valid and enjoyable, and if you are so benighted as to disagree, well, you ought to get with the times, as Katherine Marie Higgins scolded her readers in the last chapter of her 2012 The Music Between Us . There is a term for those who profess equally to enjoy a Brahms symphony, a Broadway musical, the relentless smacking away at A keys in Ligeti, and "a great hip-hop song by Jay-Z." The term is liar.

Every Brain would have benefited from more careful editing. "Interestingly, there are numerous different types of neurons" is a sentence that is redundant, but not interesting. A greater offense, though, is the title itself. As the authors (well, probably "Larry" the neuroscientist) explain, every brain decidedly does not need music, as those who experience musical anhedonia and amusia can attest.

The curious decision to pad the short volume with lengthy introspection from self-styled artists and composers was not successful. Biographies of Beethoven, Freddie Mercury, and Muhammad Ali inspire general interest. But the quoted survey responses included in Every Music were submitted by "artists" and "composers" so obscure that three of them that I chose at random had no recordings in Apple Music's massive library, so I was left wondering why a reader should care how these people feel about practicing or performing. The responses were highly personal, about as interesting as listening to an acquaintance describe their dream, and tangentially related to the general thrust of the work – the relationship between music and the brain. Whole forests of trees have been felled to print books on how best to practice a musical instrument. The topic was glanced at half-heartedly here and seemed out of place.

I will probably read every new book on the intersection between music and the brain. I am a pianist myself, and the subject area is fascinating, ego-massaging, and ever-evolving. For what it does well – to offer an up-to-date summary of the state of the field – I unreservedly commend Every Brain to readers. It may have tried to do too much, but the passion that "Larry" and "Dennis" feel toward their work is palpable on every page.

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Structured in eight movements (chapters), “Every Brain Needs Music” by Larry A. Sherman (a neuroscientist and musician) and Dennis Plies (a professional musician and teacher) takes the reader on a journey to better understand how human beings create, practice, perform, and listen to music.

The first movement discusses what music is and why we have it. This is a great reflection on history and putting words to a phenomenon we take for granted. The second movement looks at how the brain composes, musical and brain knowledge here would be helpful, it is a completely fascinating dig into which part of the brain does what and why. The brain is amazing! The third to fifth movements look at practicing music including the relationship between student and teacher (I have an even deeper appreciation for my piano teacher), the way the brain learns through practice (why this is my favourite part of playing – I’m a natural learner, I love the process) and how practicing changes the brain (music really is good for you!). The next three movements cover the performance of music, the listening to it, and why we like it.

Every chapter became my favourite and this is one of my favourite books! That said, I studied brain structure at varsity and played and studied piano to a grade 6 level, the vocabulary, and concepts built on a construct I already had. I’m not sure of the accessibility of the book to those who come to this world with no previous knowledge. If you have to wrestle with it, I do think you’ll be rewarded but be prepared to read with Google open to listen to the music referred to and look up unfamiliar terms. The illustrations throughout do help.

Whilst about music and neuroscience, it also teaches the reader about creativity and productive teaching methods. It shares wisdom about how to enjoy music more and keep one’s brain healthier.

It’s a five out of five on the enJOYment scale, highly recommended, and I hope I get to read these authors again.

I received a complimentary copy of the book from Columbia University Press through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in these reviews are completely my own.

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This book is a fascinating dive into the ways in which our brains respond to hearing, practicing, writing, and sharing music. As a lifelong musician now working in the medical field, this really hit the sweet spot in terms of my overlapping interests. If you’ve ever wondered whether a musician’s brain is different from a non-musicians, or felt an overwhelming emotion while listening to music, or if you want to understand what is happening while you practice and how to make your practice more effective, you should definitely pick up “Every Brain Needs Music.” As the authors stated at the conclusion of the book, it’s truly an exciting time to be in music and neuroscience. I also got a few new ideas for stepping up my composing game from reading this.

If this book has a fault, it’s that a few of the sections felt really out of place, as though they were copied and pasted into the wrong part of the book, and this really took me out of the interesting narrative the authors built. I will also admit to having only lightly skimmed the neuroscience introduction at the beginning since it was all information I’d encountered before. However, I definitely recommend this book for anyone who is remotely curious about the topic! You’ll definitely learn something new and interesting.

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A comprehensive look at music, the brain, and all of their interconnected pathways! I enjoyed this read much more than I anticipated. I especially adored the section in the last movement that focused on how varying levels of empathy in people's personalities affect their music taste; I have always loved melancholy tunes and now know why!

Every Brain Needs Music is filled with scientific and musicals jargon, but interspersed throughout are relatable, tangible conclusions about the brain and music that are applicable to all. I would especially recommend this musical journey through the brain to musicians, educators, science-lovers, and anyone who finds music playing a role in their life. I appreciated most the tone of this book; where our authors hold a lot of expertise, they never talk down or overwhelm the reader. It is clear they took time and thought on how best to deliver this book's melody!

Perfect for musicians and science-nerds, a welcoming challenge to anyone who loves music. I would recommend a basic understanding of musical jargon to get the most out of this book! No understanding of neuroscience is necessary before reading.

Thank you to NetGalley and Columbia University Press for this early look!

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I really enjoyed this book, much more than I was expecting to, then I got my husband to read it, because he loves all the technical/science side of music & he was absolutely enamoured. Interestingly enough we both walked away from this book thinking about different parts of the book & the complexities of how amazing our brains are & how we process music and sounds. I definitely feel like I want to read it again to understand a lot more of the technical aspects, but this was definitely a great book to talk about the neuroscience of music without being overwhelming or making anyone feel like they're being talked down to. I highly recommend this book to anyone with a passion for music, even if you don't play an instrument or you're not usually one who is interested in science or neurology books.

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The topic is fascinating. But having the knowledge, and being able to write an interesting book, is not the same thing.
Those interested in neurology (with at least a basic understanding of how the brain works), might find this book not detailed enough. However, Those who have no knowledge of musical terminology might find this book hard to understand.

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